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Food Code

FDA has little authority to regulate the retail sector of the food industry; that responsibility primarily lies with state and local governments. However, FDA offers suggestions to state and local governments to consider as they develop their regulatory oversight. These suggestions are contained in the Food Code.

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"More than 3,000 state, local and tribal agencies have primary responsibility to regulate the retail food and food-service industries in the United States. They are responsible for the inspection and oversight of over 1 million food establishments - restaurants and grocery stores, as well as vending machines, cafeterias, and other outlets in health-care facilities, schools, and correctional facilities. FDA strives to promote the application of science-based food safety principles in retail and food-service settings to minimize the the incidence of food-borne illness. FDA assists regulatory agencies and the industries they regulate by providing a model Food Code, scientifically-based guidance, training, program evaluation, and technical assistance."

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A key component in FDA assistance to non-federal governments is the Food Code.

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Food Code

"The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes the Food Code, a model that assists food control jurisdictions at all levels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of the industry (restaurants and grocery stores and institutions such as nursing homes). Local, state, tribal, and federal regulators use the FDA Food Code as a model to develop or update their own food safety rules and to be consistent with national food regulatory policy."

  • See FDA Food Code -- Introduction
  • Food Code 2013
    • The chapters in the Food Code suggests the breadth of topics that retail and food service businesses need to consider in fulfill their role in reducing the risk of unsafe food.
      • CHAPTER 1 PURPOSE
      • CHAPTER 2 MANAGEMENT AND PERSONNEL
      • CHAPTER 3 FOOD
      • CHAPTER 4 EQUIPMENT, UTENSILS, AND LINENS
      • CHAPTER 5 WATER, PLUMBING, AND WASTE
      • CHAPTER 6 PHYSICAL FACILITIES
      • CHAPTER 7 POISONOUS OR TOXIC MATERIALS
      • CHAPTER 8 COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT

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The following list cites the Food Code for selected jurisdictions.  Note that the current Food Code for some jurisdictions will not be the latest FDA suggestions; it takes time for the local governments to determine when and what will be adopted from the FDA's "suggested" Food Code.

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Topics addressed in the Food Code

  • Management and Personnel (person in charge, employee health, employee cleanliness)
  • Food (containers and records; protection after receiving; destroying and limiting growth of organisms; identity and on-premise labeling; contaminated food; special considerations for highly suspectible populations)
  • Equipment, Utensils, and Linens (construction materials and repairs; construction design; capacity; location and installation; maintaining, cleaning, sanitizing equipment; laundering; protection of clean items)
  • Water, Plumbing and Waste (water; plumbing; sewage; rainwater; refuse, recyclables, returnables)
  • Physical Facilities (construction materials and repairs; design, construction and installation; capacity; location/placement; maintenance and operation)
  • Poisonous or Toxic Materials (labeling and identification; operational supplies and applications; stock and retail sales)
  • Compliance and Enforcement (plan submission and approval; permit to operate; inspection and corrections; prevent employee transmission)

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Increasingly, HACCP underpins the Food Code

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Retail Food Outlets

Much of Food Code is directed to food preparation/service, even though it also applies to food retailers, such as grocery stores.

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Food Defense

Another topic for the retail and food service sector to consider is the risk of an intentional attack on their food products.

  • Guidance for Industry: Retail Food Stores and Food Service Establishments: Food Security Preventive Measures Guidance
  • "Operators of food retail food stores and food service establishments are encouraged to review their current procedures and controls in light of the potential for tampering or other malicious, criminal, or terrorist actions and make appropriate improvements. This guidance is designed to focus operators' attention sequentially on each segment of the food delivery system that is within their control, to minimize the risk of tampering or other malicious, criminal, or terrorist action at each segment. To be successful, implementing enhanced preventive measures requires the commitment of management and staff. Accordingly, FDA recommends that both management and staff participate in the development and review of such measures."

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Employee Training to Implement the Food Code

The Food Code (or any other code) will be effective only if the industry employees are trained to understand their role in reducing the risk of unsafe food.  To accompany the Food Code, FDA provides educational materials that can be used to train industry employees on how to perform their jobs to reduce the risk of unsafe food.

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Guidance to non-federal governments in administering the Food Code

Much of the discussion throughout this web site has emphasized the role, responsibilities and opportunities for food businesses to reduce the risk of unsafe (adulterated and misbranded) food.  This section briefly introduces the concept that regulatory agencies also need to be prepared to fulfill their oversight responsibilities.

The Food Code will be effective only if the non-federal governments that have adopted the Food Code and are responsible for administering the Food Code are prepared to perform that administrative responsibility.  FDA offers the following thoughts (standards) to non-federal governments for them to consider in their administrative role.

  • Standard 1: Regulatory Foundation
  • Standard 2: Trained Regulatory Staff
  • Standard 3: Inspection Program Based on HACCP Principles
  • Standard 4: Uniform Inspection Program
  • Standard 5: Foodborne Illness and Food Defense Preparedness and Response
  • Standard 6: Compliance and Enforcement
  • Standard 7: Industry and Community Relations
  • Standard 8: Program Support and Resources
  • Standard 9: Program Assessment

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Summary

The retail and food service sector is primarily regulated by state and local governments but the FDA is offering assistance to reduce the cost of having to develop standards (e.g. the Food Code) as well as offering guidance as to how the regulatory entities prepare themselves to effectively overseeing the retail and food service sector (e.g., the Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards).  As stated in other sections, every business and every responsible government agency/entity must do its part to assure their practices reduce the risk of unsafe food.

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Email David.Saxowsky@ndsu.edu

This material is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for competent legal counsel. Seek appropriate professional advice for answers to your specific questions.

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